Sunday, December 30, 2012

Weekend Catch-Up

A few days ago I made my very last trek up to the North Shore for 2012 so that I could meet up with Barb who was spending the Christmas holidays with her family dearest in Tewksbury. After consulting her jam-packed calendar which was overflowing with fun family events, we determined that there was just enough time to spend a day in Salem. Go figure, huh?

With a rather dire weather forecast being predicted, I drove up to Salem on Wednesday evening (just beating the snow that started to fall in Connecticut a short time after I left) and then managed to talk Barb into joining me for two nights at the Hawthorne Hotel rather than just one.  She reluctantly gave up her spot on the couch and I made the short drive over to Tewksbury to pick her up once again being just ahead of the bad weather!

Thursday dawned with lots of wind and rain so we skipped our planned drive up to Kennebunkport, Maine with Juli and opted instead to go see "The Hobbit" at the local theater. I think we both kind of fell asleep during different parts of the movie but not because of the movie itself but due to the late night/early morning we had before the movie!  Following that we made our way back over to the Hawthorne and had a lovely long nap before meeting up with Walt and Juli, as well as her sister Mari-Ann and her husband Steve who were in town for a late Christmas celebration, for a delicious dinner in Nathaniel's.

Before we knew it, it was Friday morning and time for me to take Barb back to her sister Lynda's but not before we hit up Nathaniel's one more time for breakfast!  I snapped the photo below of Barb on her iPhone with my iPhone - two accessories that we never seem to not have with us!

For those who haven't seen photos of it a million and one times over on Facebook, this is Nathaniel's - the more upscale restaurant at the Hawthorne Hotel.  Even though it's upscale, it's not stuffy or snobby at all and it's easy to feel comfortable and relaxed all while being pampered by some real friendly folks who work as waitstaff there.  Not to mention the food is really good!

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Following breakfast, we got ready to check out but wanted to be sure to say goodbye to Juli who had yet to arrive at work. While we were waiting, Barb asked a couple of ladies who just happened to be from Norwich, Connecticut if they would mind taking a photo for us as we hadn't had any taken while we were together. Barb had met the ladies earlier and found out that they were there for a relative's funeral. It truly is a small world!

After dropping Barb off with a big hug back in Tewksbury, I made the drive home to Connecticut with a stop at the Market Basket grocery store in Oxford, Massachusetts close to the Connecticut border as they've got lots of things we don't have down here in Norwich plus their milk is only $2.49 a gallon as compared to the $4.09 a gallon here. Yikes!  Add on the fact that I was having a hard time staying awake on the turnpike and I figured getting out of the car for awhile would be a good idea!

Yesterday I worked for 16 hours while outside snow was falling and Norwich was being covered in a blanket of white; the forecasters were predicting 6 to 8 inches - we ended up with 14!  Someday they're going to get it right and I am going to be absolutely astonished!  When I got home from work around 11:30, I spent a little time shoveling away some of the snow that had accumulated since Amanda had last shoveled and while doing so took the time to attempt a couple of photos with my iPhone being that it was so pretty out. These are those!

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Today was another round of shoveling followed by a nice hot shower and just being lazy. As cold as it was outside, I thought that was a good plan! Tomorrow Jamie and I will be going to lunch with my friend Paula at the Olive Garden as I'm jonesing for some Zuppa Toscana and maybe a breadstick or two. Amanda is off to friend's house for a few days to celebrate New Year's so she'll miss out but she was there when I took the photo below the last time we were at Olive Garden when Claire was still here visiting.  Wow, that seems so long ago but it really wasn't.

Anyway, after lunch it's back home and hopefully an early night as I've got to work a 16 hour shift on the first day of 2013 - lucky me!  Ah well, the most excitement I ever have on New Year's Eve is to change the calendar and wonder where the past year got off to so it's not like I'm going to miss a party or anything!

Whatever your plans for New Year's Eve may be, I hope you have a great time and that the coming year is a fantastic one for all of us. I'm of the mind that 13 may just be a lucky number after all in spite of all that superstitious nonsense! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ...

... I'm not going to be ready for Christmas in three short days if I don't get my act together!

I woke up quite early this morning with visions of things I need to get done dancing through my head so as soon as my hair dries and I manage to pry myself off of this computer, I'm going to head out into the fray and take care of some of those things on the list.  Oh boy. Shopping the weekend before Christmas.  Definitely not one of my favorite things but it needs to be done.

As I am working for 16 hours on Christmas Day itself, I'm having some of my family over for an early dinner on Christmas Eve so that I don't feel like the holiday has skipped me by completely.  For years now the extended family has gotten together on Christmas night at either my Aunt Eleanor or Aunt Nancy's houses but as I can't be two places at once and duty calls, I won't be able to make it this year hence my attempt to have a gathering of my own.

Right now I've got a spiral ham on the menu and have been kicking around various and assorted side dishes. I don't have a place where folks can sit and formally eat dinner so I'm trying to come up with good "lap food" choices which may include some sort of cheesy potato casserole, my grandmother's baked beans, and a few other dishes to be named later.  I guess I'll see what inspires me once I get to the grocery store!

In addition to planning for that, I really ought to consider wrapping the few Christmas presents that I have as well as finish buying a couple of others.  Truthfully I've been at a total loss as to what to get anyone this year but that seems to happen every year.

Back in the kitchen, I've got a couple of Chocolate Scotch Whiskey Cakes to make for work, an Eggnog/Gingerbread Trifle to put together for Christmas Eve dinner, and something else that I can't quite remember at the moment!  I really need to start writing things down!

If I'm a good girl and manage to work my way through my list of "Things I Gotta Do" then I'm going to take myself to see "Lincoln" at the local theater which I just haven't had the opportunity to do yet in spite of the fact that I've really wanted to see it.  Amanda and I did go see "The Hobbit" last week and I thought it was wonderful in spite of what the critics had to say about it being too long and too boring in places.  Really?  I must have missed those places because I didn't think it was boring at all - it was beautifully done!

So, ho ho ho, off to the stores I go!  I hope that everyone has a wonderful weekend-before-Christmas and that your own to-do lists are ta-done and you can enjoy the spirit of the season without feeling like you forgot something! 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Most people who know me at all, know that I take great interest in most things from the Civil War so I guess it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite Christmas songs was written partially in response to the feelings of despair that particular war caused. In 1863, Cambridge, Massachusetts' poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the poem "Christmas Bells" after his son Charles was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia during the Mine Run Campaign.

First published in February 1865 in a juvenile magazine entitled Our Young Folks, it wasn't until 1872 that the poem was set to music when the English organist, John Baptiste Calkin, used it in a processional accompanied with a melody he had previously used as early as 1848. The poem was set to several other melodies over the years but it has always remained a song that Ray Bradbury, in his 1962 novel Something Wicked This Way Comes, describes as "immensely moving, overwhelming, no matter what day or what month it was sung."

In light of last week's horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the words seem even more moving and overwhelming than they were back in the dark days of the Civil War as people still reel from the shock and grief and despair that was wrought upon a small town with the taking of the lives of 26 innocent people.
"... And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"  
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
If you've got a few free moments, please take the time to watch the embedded video which tells the whole story of Longfellow's epic poem and includes a marvelous performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  If you aren't in need of a tissue by the end, I will be utterly amazed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Will Never Understand, Nor Should I

I woke up this morning and my brain immediately shifted to those people on the other side of the state who are waking up today - provided they were able to sleep - with their lives completely and totally changed by the actions of one young man with a gun, an action that I still cannot wrap my brain around. How did someone get to this point in his life? How did he ever come up with such an atrociously evil plan? And why?

But I guess those questions don't really matter as the act has been committed and many, many lives have been shattered and will never, ever be the same.

As I talked to Amanda about it yesterday, she said that perhaps it's a good thing that I can't understand this sort of thing; that even with all of my years working as a dispatcher in law enforcement and EMS that I'm still at a loss when things like this occur. And that's a good thing when you get right down to it.

I hope that none of us ever get to the point where we can understand the evil that men do or that we can justify it either. No matter what Adam Lanza had going on in his head, no matter how f'd up his own life was, there is NO justification whatsoever for what he did. If your own life is that bad then feel free to end it but please, don't take anyone else with you - especially innocent children who still believed in the goodness of a world that seems to be sliding downhill faster and faster.

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has been affected by this horrific tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and whose lives have been shattered, a tragedy that I will never in all of the years of my life understand.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Contrary to What Is Probably Popular Belief ...

... I have not exactly fallen off of the edge of the Blogosphere though it almost seems like that when I think about how long it's been since my last blog post!  Suffice it to say that time has been flying by like a witch on a broomstick in October or a fat man wearing a red suit in a sleigh in December but 12-12-12 seemed like as good a day as any to finally pop in and say HI!

After six weeks of wandering around with Claire, I put her back on the plane to England almost a full two weeks ago and since then have not been able to get my act together long enough to do much more than occasionally post on Facebook or think about writing a blog post or two.  Trust me, I've got plenty to write about along with plenty of photos to share but I apparently put my ambition and motivation on the plane with Claire as I can't seem to find them anywhere around the house.  Hopefully if she finds them stashed somewhere in the things she took back with her, she ships them back posthaste but I have the sneaky suspicion she will keep them for her own use!

As for my Google Reader, I have honestly been afraid to even peek at the thing!  I definitely think there will be some "mark all as read" action going on and then hopefully I can get back to visiting the folks who live in my computer (as Claire likes to put it) and see how your lives have been doing since I somehow found myself ridiculously busy!

I started getting my twice-weekly allergy shots last Monday (one in my right arm and two in my left) and have come to the conclusion that they kind of make me feel like I've been hit by a truck for a day after I get them. I'm going to have to talk to the folks at the allergist's tomorrow and let them know that "Yes, I have had increased wheezing, respiratory issues, and flu-like symptoms to report!"  Those questions have to be asked before each injection though I'm not sure what impact it makes if you answer 'yes' versus 'no'.  Guess I'll be finding out!  I'm  not at all sure how long it takes before one notices the benefits of the injections but I do hope it doesn't take too long.

Let's see, what else?  Jamie will be coming back from visiting her Dad in Texas this coming Monday when - naturally - some winter-like weather is being predicted.  I'm hoping it's more rain than anything else but with New England you just never know.  Like they say, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute!"  We were fortunate with the weather for most of the time that Claire was visiting though we did get that hurricane and there was snow and rain and fog on occasion but for the most part, we had some pretty good conditions for traveling around the countryside.  I am proud to say that I managed to get her to all five New England states while she was here - along with Pennsylvania and Canada, too!  Wait till she gets the bill in the mail for my "travel guide services"!

This weekend promises to be a busy one as I'll be hosting what's become the annual Christmas party for the Dispatch and Scheduling Department wherein we all get together and drink and eat too much and which means I need to do a little extra cleaning before Saturday night!  On Sunday Amanda and I are heading up to Cambridge to attend Afternoon Tea at Upstairs on the Square with my friend Juli and then from there we're going to a bell ringing concert by the New England Ringers at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport.  The plan is to spend the night at Juli's in Salem and then head down to Providence to pick up Jamie on Monday.  Hopefully the weather will cooperate for all of that!

Oh, and just to make things even more interesting, I'm taking Amanda to see "The Hobbit" at the midnight showing on Thursday night and hopefully attending the Canterbury Historical Society's Holiday Potluck on Friday night in my hometown.  Somewhere in between there I'm supposed to work eight hours, too.

I think I have just worn myself out all over again just reading about the upcoming next few days! I think I may have forgotten that I am old and tired and that Christmas is now less than two weeks away!   Yikes.

Let's close this with a YouTube video of the folks that we'll be going to see on Sunday that was filmed at a recent concert here in Connecticut; perhaps I'll get the chance to take a video or two of my own then and then hopefully I'll get a chance to share it with you!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Greetings From the White Mountains of New Hampshire!

In our continued travels while Claire is over visiting from the United Kingdom, we've been spending the past few days as guests of the Sunset Hill House in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire and taking full advantage of as much as the region has to offer as possible - all within very easy driving distance!

Just a few photos to show you what I'm talking about!

We took a ride on the Mount Washington Cog Railway which, even though it only goes halfway up its normal route this time of year, was a great way to get some terrific views of the area.

We stopped by Echo Lake located in Franconia Notch at the base of Cannon Mountain.

We took a walk through the beautiful New Hampshire woods to see The Basin which has been formed by thousands of years of rushing water eroding the rock into a smooth, circular cave-like formation.

We drove through the New Hampshire countryside and took in some lovely views.

We took a drive to the small town of Bath where we found both America's Oldest General Store and New Hampshire's longest covered bridge.

 And we drove over to Jackson Falls to take in the view there, too!

All in all, it's been beautiful and we're not done yet!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Visiting Pennsylvania - A Quick Weekend Recap

Yikes!  The time has been flying by since Claire arrived almost three weeks ago; it's hard to believe that her visit to the States is almost half over already but I guess that's because we've been pretty busy going and doing and going some more since her plane landed on October 17th. This past weekend found us down in southeastern Pennsylvania in search of food, friends, and a couple of things we really didn't expect!

Friday morning found on us the road heading east at approximately 6:30 a.m. in the hopes to avoid any traffic back-ups on our way to Pottsville, Pennsylvania and the home of the oldest brewery in America - the David G. Yuengling and Son Brewery.  The plan was to meet up with Claire's friend Jenn who was driving over from Pittsburgh and go on the 1:30 tour before heading up to our hotel in Hazleton and figuring out what we wanted to do for the rest of the weekend.

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Due to road construction and traffic tie-ups, we barely parked the car (in what I hoped wasn't an illegal spot!) in time to run into the brewery gift shop where the tours step off from.  Due to the same problems, Jenn was a few minutes behind us and there was barely time to say 'hi' before we started out on our tour of the caves beneath the brewery

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From the caves we then climbed to the upper levels of the brewery to the room where the hops and other ingredients to make the beer were cooked and with the change in altitude also came a major change in temperature - going from 47 degrees in the caves to a heck of a lot more than that upstairs. Because of that and because she hadn't eaten since the night before, Jenn barely had time to tell Claire that she was feeling dizzy before she passed out in front of us as I was suggesting that she sit down before she fell down.  Had I been quicker, I might have been able to at least break her fall a little bit but as it happened so fast, Jenn was down on the floor before we could even blink and blood was pouring out onto the concrete.

One of the other folks on the tour called 911 while I rendered what aid I could and made sure that Jenn didn't try to get up again while trying to stanch the flow of blood with a small red hoodie from one of the two children that were on the tour.  Fortunately, Jenn said that the floor was much cooler and she was fine staying there until the local ambulance service arrived, got her onto a backboard, and transported her to the local hospital which was only a few blocks away.

Claire and I filled out the accident report as best we could and then hustled over to the Emergency Department Waiting Room while Jenn was stitched up over her eye, given some IV fluids to rehydrate her, and a CT scan was taken to make sure everything in her head was where it should be.  Thankfully it was and within two hours (a veritable miracle when it comes to EDs!), she was released and ready to roll ... though there was no way that we were going to have her drive her own car the 25 miles to Hazleton in the rain, the dark, and the traffic.

Enter in two more wonderful folks that Claire had met via blogging - Beth and her husband Cliff of who live in Phoenixville.  We had planned to meet up with them for dinner after our tour of the brewery but when Claire messaged Beth to let her know that there was a change in plans and that we'd have to cancel dinner, Beth immediately asked what they could do to help and drove the 2+ hours to Pottsville to drive Jenn's car to the hotel for us. What is that Blanche DuBois said in "A Streetcar Named Desire"?  Oh yes, "... I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."  Wow was that ever the case this past weekend!

Once we got to Hazleton, we all trooped over to a retro-diner/dive for a late dinner.  Jimmy's Quick Lunch is a family-owned business that has been serving up hot dogs since 1937 and even though it might not look like much and most definitely fit the category of "dive", the food was pretty darned tasty and very reasonably priced!

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After a good night's sleep for all three of us, Claire, Jenn, and I set out to do some exploring but not before we stopped at the Hollywood Diner and had a hearty breakfast as there was going to be NO passing out of any sort going on! Jenn and Claire had sausage gravy on a biscuit while I chose a childhood favorite, chipped beef on toast - though the waitress asked if I wanted it on a biscuit and I simply had to say "heck yeah!"

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Following our stick-to-your-ribs breakfast, we drove about 25 miles southwest of Hazleton to the former town of Centralia where in 1962, workers set trash on fire in an abandoned mine and an exposed vein of anthracite coal also caught fire. Since then the ground beneath the former town with a population of 3,000 has been burning and everyone was relocated elsewhere - well, except for a small amount who refuse to leave. The 2006 horror film "Silent Hill" was inspired by Centralia and the video game has made it even more popular. Had I not gone to visit while we were so close, I'm sure that Amanda would not have approved!

I'll be writing more about our visit to the town on The Distracted Wanderer once I have a chance to fall back and regroup a bit but in the meantime, here are two shots and no, that's not Claire all pixilated checking out the smoke coming from the ground ... or is it?!?

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From Centralia, we did a little more driving through the countryside eventually coming across a covered bridge that I simply had to take some shots of and then eventually winding up in Wyoming, Pennsylvania at another RetroRoadMap favorite - the Victory Pig.  They serve what's called "Old Forge" style pizza which ended up not really being much to our liking (there's just something about having onions overpowering the taste of everything even hours later) so we decided that a stop back at the Hollywood Diner near our hotel was in order for some pie!

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

After saying goodbye to Jenn around noon on Sunday, Claire and I then wandered over to Lisa's house for a lovely afternoon visit with her and her delightful daughter, Megan. We had originally kicked around the idea of taking a drive around to some of the covered bridges in the area but as Megan had the sniffles and the weather wasn't exactly all that great, instead we sat in Lisa's living room eating brownies and beer bread with a delicious herb and spinach dip and just chatted for close to five hours.  It was really a great way to end our visit to eastern Pennsylvania and I was happy to have had the chance to get together again with Lisa as well as give Claire the chance to meet her in person.

It was the perfect end to a not-quite perfect weekend but one that I'm sure Claire and I will remember for a long time to come! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On the Other Side of Sandy

Wow.  What a weekend.

First and foremost, I am happy to say that Claire, Amanda, and I made it through "Super Storm Sandy" just fine and dandy as we sat warm and comfy in Walt & Juli's living room in their Salem home which was built in 1795 and has survived more than its fair share of storms over the years.  As the wind whipped around outside and whistled down the chimney, we were dry and warm, well-fed and quite happy to be sitting where we were.

Watching the news this morning and seeing the devastation along the New Jersey shore, the Connecticut coastline, and the streets of New York City, I am thankful that everyone I know is safe and sound  and suffered no catastrophic losses but I know that there are a lot of folks out there whose lives will probably never be the same as they assess the damage that this super storm wreaked.

Personally I feel somewhat like we've all dodged yet another bullet and I am very grateful for that as the news reports certainly made it feel like the end of the world was coming and even though I was hoping that once again the news media would be wrong and just whipping everyone up into needless fear and frenzy, there was always the underlying fear that maybe this time they were going to be right and the sky really would be falling.

Even though forewarned is certainly forearmed, all of this "Boy Who Cried Wolf" weather-forecasting is a bit much.  Yes - we all need to be prepared; no - we all don't need to be in sheer, bloody panic. And honestly, I don't need to see some news person and camera crew standing on the coast where the waves are furiously breaking over a seawall to grasp the fact that yes, we are having a storm and yes, the tide is higher than usual and things are getting dangerous.

Watching the news yesterday until I decided I'd quite had enough, I kept wondering whatever happened to responsible journalism and why we all have to see to believe rather than be able to use common sense to understand that it's not fit outside for either man nor beast. How do we get regular folks to stay home and away from dangerous areas when news stations are telling viewers to "send us your photos of the storm" and they're seeing news reporters standing out in the weather so why can't they?

I don't know.

Nor do I know where I'm going with this particular post as it was certainly never my intention to go from saying, "Hey, we're all fine here and heading home to Connecticut shortly" to grumbling about the media's coverage of Sandy but obviously I did!  I guess I'll chalk it up to the surrealistic feelings of the last few days and the slight twinge of guilt that I feel at not having been at work to help out there though I have no doubt that my co-workers did a marvelous job in keeping the City of Norwich and surrounding areas safe.

For now I'm going to pack up the car and we're going to head home - thankful that we have an intact home to head back to, thankful that we had wonderful friends who shared their home with us during the storm, and more grateful than grumbeful no matter which direction this post took! 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Greetings From the Roof of the Hawthorne Hotel!

This weekend finds Claire and I in one of my very favorite places ever as it's the weekend of the big Halloween Ball at the Hawthorne Hotel where Claire will be doing her best Simon Cowell impression and even though there's a potentially major storm bearing down on us in the form of Hurricane (or Tropical Storm if you prefer) Sandy, Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day on the North Shore as evidenced by the following photos that were taken from the roof of the hotel.

View to the west and downtown Salem
View to the south, Hawthorne Boulevard
Essex Street and the Peabody Essex Museum 
View to the east, the Custom House and Salem Harbor
View north with Salem Common on the right
The Salem Witch Museum and the Roger Conant Statue
I'm sure that Claire enjoyed the view of Salem that most visitors to the city will never ever get that was made possible by my friend Juli - hope you enjoyed it too!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

From Boston On Beyond!

Let's see if I can do a quick catch-up on what Claire and I have been doing since she arrived in the States on Wednesday evening and I left her standing abandoned at the airport while I sat in traffic in God-knows-where-downtown Boston because in spite of the fact that I had actually gotten to the airport on time, the parking lot for the international terminal was closed and I somehow ended up driving the wrong way and couldn't get turned around.

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  Have I ever mentioned that I hate driving in Boston??

After finally making my way back to Logan, I ran into the terminal and found Claire who was looking a bit lost and then it was off to Bangor where we spent the night in a cheap but comfortable Howard Johnson's Inn before setting out the next morning to stalk Stephen King's house ... or at least take some photos like the one below, more of which you can see at The Distracted Wanderer where I actually managed to write a short post for once!

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After admiring the Mansion of the Master Macabre, we did some quick necessity shopping, grabbed lunch, and then continued east towards our next stop for several days - Lubec, Maine which is one of the most lovely little towns that I've seen in a long time and a great place to see several very cool lighthouses which - as anyone who knows me knows - I just love!

West Quoddy Lighthouse with some truly wonderful evening light to show it off in.

East Quoddy Light aka Harbour Head Light which is actually in New Brunswick on the northern end of Campobello Island where Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a lovely summer home. More to follow on all of that on The Distracted Wanderer once I've had a chance to catch up more.

As for those of you who are waiting anxiously to see a photo of Claire - anyone who knows Claire knows that she doesn't under any circumstances like to have her photo taken so don't expect to be seeing any full-on shots of her. That said, she did allow me to post the two of her below - enjoy!

Tonight we've landed in Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick where tomorrow morning bright and early we'll be setting out to explore some really cool stuff at Hopewell Rocks where we'll take a walk on the ocean floor and make sure we're safely back on land before the 42-foot tide comes back in.  Trust me, there will be photos! 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let the Fun Begin ... In A Few Hours, More or Less!

It’s funny how something that you’ve been planning for years and years can still somehow manage to catch you a bit by surprise when the event finally arrives even though while you were in the middle of the planning, you more or less felt like the day would never arrive when that which you were planning for so long finally happened.

That’s rather been the case with Claire’s second trip to the United States; a trip that we’ve been talking about for over four years and planning quite extensively for the past year. Through a major series of emails and Facebook messages we’ve plotted with meticulous detail the what/when/where/how/why of her jump across the pond and I’ve got to say that even though we’ve got things hammered down to almost the nth degree – it’s still rather surprising to me that the day has finally come when she’ll actually be here. But it has and in just over four hours, I’ll be tossing stuff in the car in the hopes that I’ve not forgotten anything important as I set out to first pick up Claire at Boston’s Logan Airport and then we head north to Maine and further on to New Brunswick, Canada in search of the world’s highest tides at Hopewell Rocks.

Wow. How did that actually get here so fast? Well, sort of fast, but not really I guess when I look back over the past four years and all of the planning that has gone into this trip – as well as the others that we have planned while Claire is here. I get the feeling that the next six weeks are simply going to blow by and I’ll be sitting on the other end of Claire’s journey wondering “Wow, how did the time go by so quickly??”

In the meantime, though, I’m watching the clock creep ever so slowly towards the time when I can get out of work, say good-bye to my co-workers until next Wednesday, and wrap up a few small errands before loading up the Caliber, dropping Amanda off in Quincy at a friend’s for her weekend plans, and then continuing on to the international terminal at Logan to await Claire’s arrival and the start of Phase One of our big adventure.

And trust me, time is moving awfully slowly right now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The British Are Coming! The British Are Coming! Well ... One of Them At Least!

Ever since I had the pleasure of first meeting one Miss Claire Rachel Pitt a bit over four years ago, we've been planning on her coming back over to the States for another visit.  We've talked about places to go, things to see, people to meet while tossing out one itinerary in favor of another several times over but with only two weeks before that long-awaited and much-talked-about visit actually becomes a reality, I think we have finally settled on a rather busy agenda which will pretty much fill up every moment of the six weeks that Claire will be a guest in the United States.  Six weeks packed full of activities and honestly, we could have probably easily planned out another six weeks chock full of things to do and still had more left over on our list!

So, what do we have on that oft-changed, rearranged, and busy agenda?  Read on and you'll see that I need to put vitamins on the top of the list of things I gotta pack!

October 17th - While on her side of the Atlantic Ocean Claire will arise at the crack of dawn, get herself to the airport, and travel back through time as she hurtles towards Boston at about 500 miles an hour, I'll be doing my usual work routine having hopefully gotten all of my packing done so that when quitting time comes I can run home, change clothes, toss my suitcase in the car, and head north to greet her on the other side of Customs with her requested "coffee and vodka".  Lots of coffee, a little vodka, and maybe one of those silly little signs with her name on it just to make her feel important.  Hmmm, wonder if I can find a limo driver's hat by then??

Once we've got Claire's cases tossed in the boot along with mine, I'll point the car north and set out for Bangor, Maine about 4 hours northeast of Boston.  Upon arrival we're going to check into a cheap motel that will hopefully at least be clean and comfortable, let Claire attempt to sleep off some of her jet-lag, and then head out bright and early the next morning for an early morning jaunt past the home of horror writer extraordinaire Stephen King who reportedly has some wicked cool gates that I just gotta get a photo of!  

October 18 -19th - After hopefully not being arrested as stalkers, we are then going to continue through Maine to the most northeastern town in the United States - Lubec, Maine. While there we will be staying for two nights at the lovely Peacock House, a historic bed and breakfast overlooking the Bay of Fundy!  While there we've got lots of exploring planned including a tour of the local lighthouse that has long been on my list of lighthouses to see!

October 20 -21st - Passports in hand we're going to continue heading east and cross over the Canadian border driving through New Brunswick to Hopewell Rocks - home of the world's highest tides.  During our time in Canada, we'll be guests of the Innisfree Bed and Breakfast who have promised to make sure we see all there is to see in the area - sending us out with our bellies full from a hearty breakfast first.

October 22nd - 23rd - Leaving the wilds of Canada behind, with hopefully the closest encounter with moose or bear being from a safe distance, we'll start homeward bound stopping first for a night in the area of Acadia National Park with the hopes of catching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain before we make our way back to Connecticut.

October 24th - 25th - Claire will hang around the house chatting with the girls and keeping Tesla company while I go to work for a few days and rest up for the next phase of our wanderings.

October 26th - 28th - Back to Massachusetts and the North Shore where Claire will get her first glimpse of my beloved Salem - right smack at the peak of the Halloween madness that is the hallmark of Salem in October.  We'll be staying at Chez Lederhaus - home of my friends Walt and Juli whom I can't wait for Claire to meet and vice versa.  On the 27th of October Claire will be doing her best Simon Cowell impression as she takes on the role of judge at the uber-cool Hawthorne Hotel Halloween Ball.  As she gets to take a guest, that will be me along with my trusty Nikon and I'm sure it will be just as much fun - if not more so - than last year's Halloween Ball.  Hopefully there won't be any snow this year but you just never know!

October 29th - November 1st - Back in Norwich, Claire has talked me into a visit to Dark Manor which is supposed to be THE #1 haunted house in Connecticut. Fortunately it's located not too far from home so in case anyone needs to change clothing before heading out to the Harp and Dragon for a pint afterward, it will be easy enough to just pop by the house! I'm sure that on Halloween night, Amanda can find something spook-tacular for Claire to do - zombie makeovers may be included!

November 2nd - November 4th - We'll be trundling southwest to Hazleton, Pennsylvania and staying at the Ramada while meeting up with one of Claire's blogging buddies from Pittsburgh as well as Lisa and her Macs (both big and little!), whom I have already had the pleasure of meeting up once a few years back - of course, that was pre-Little Mac! I believe a coal mine tour and a tour of America's oldest operating brewery are on the current agenda while there, as well as meeting up with Mod Betty from Retro Roadmap who is going to point us in the direction of some of the true Americana that Claire craves!

November 5th -10th - Back in Connecticut for a breather while I'm once again off to work and Claire keeps the home fires burning as she prepares some Doodologist-type things which she'll be attempting to peddle at a craft fair in Rhode Island being held at the Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge in Cranston from 10am to 3pm on November 10th.  We've rented a table at the annual event sponsored by the Rhode Island Chapter of the National MS Society and I'm sure as long as we have Claire do all the talking and mention that the crafts are from England, she'll sell out completely!

November 11th - Off for tea and luncheon at Mrs Bridges' Pantry in South Woodstock with Princess Patricia of Ansonia in the Valley and my friend Paula who is an amazing art teacher and occasional distracted sidekick joining us. Mrs. Bridges is an authentic British tea room but we won't know exactly how authentic until Claire gives it her authentic British seal of approval! I anticipate a jolly good time though I still think we should consider wearing proper hats!

November 12 -14th - A little more hanging around in Norwich while I work and Claire possibly meets up with another blogging chum of hers from nearby New London.

November 15th - 19th - Back up to Salem and the lovely Hawthorne Hotel for five awesome nights with lots of wandering planned so that I can show Claire exactly why I love the North Shore as much as I do.  Depending on if we can fit it into the schedule, we might even get down to Plimouth Plantation for a visit with the Pilgrims if our timing works out and we don't get distracted visiting too many retro-diners and sampling pie and coffee while Claire checks out one lunch counter after another and drops the occasional quarter in a jukebox. Diners, drive-ins, and dives are definitely on her list of "must-sees"!

November 20th - 25th - Off to the lovely Sunset Hill House located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for five nights of ...  free! As Claire says, "Who says social media doesn't get you lovely things?"  Again lots of things penciled in, but nothing concrete other than helping them to decorate for Christmas and being able to take advantage of all the wonderful hospitality of the innkeepers and their staff as we take on the role of "embedded Facebookers".  Make sure you like their page, Sunset Hill House on Facebook, as we'll be live-blogging on both their page and ours during the time that we are there.

November 25th - 26th - Before heading home to Connecticut we'll be spending one night in a place that has been on my bucket list for a very long time, the beautiful Omni Mount Washington Resort which is a member of Historic Hotels of America as it has a truly impressive history - one that Claire and I will be learning all about on our private tour of the resort on Monday morning.  As excited as I am about everything else - and trust me, I am! - I am really looking forward to our one night in Bretton Woods as it will be the perfect way to end our whirlwind touring of the northeast.

We'll be arriving back in Connecticut probably late in the day/evening on the 26th with just enough time for me to catch a few hours sleep before it's back to work for me and a couple days rest for Claire before I have to take her back up to Boston and Logan Airport on the 29th so that she can climb on a plane and jet back to jolly old England. Provided she manages to get back through Customs of course!

Like I said, Claire's going to be here just about six weeks and I've got no doubt that the time will fly but hopefully not so fast that we don't get a chance to enjoy all of the things that we've got planned.  And yes, we do have a lot but you should see the list of things we had to shelve for another time! Yikes!

Hopefully Claire won't wait another four years before she gets back here so we can start work on that next list but in the meantime, I also want to start working on my own list of things I want to see in England as it's my sincere hope to get over there before Claire gets back over here.  Provided she doesn't like it so much that she finds a job and moves over permanently!  If that happens, we'll be making even more lists!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Mountaintop, Lake, and Earache - Oh My!

Last Friday morning the girls and I patted Tesla on the head with directions to behave himself when Andrew came by to feed and water him, threw our stuff, in the car, and pointed ourselves to the west. Amanda was going to spend the weekend with her friend Darci in Bennington who is attending college there while Jamie and I continued on to the Lake George area of New York.

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Our journey to Bennington took us through the Berkshires of Massachusetts and as it was a picture-perfect September day we decided to take a slight detour and head to the summit of Mount Greylock, Massachusetts' highest peak at an elevation of 3,491 feet. Amanda and I been there once before early last September but it wasn't the best of days and what we saw on the summit was this:

Amanda had said that it seemed like something out of the movie "Silent Hill" and I've got to admit, it was downright impossible to get a good look at the war memorial that stands at the summit. This time, though, was a completely different story! And not just because Amanda's hair is now red instead of black!

As you can tell, the girls are thrilled to be back together now that Jamie has returned from Canada! Sigh ... Anyway, one of the other things that was different this time other than the fact that we could actually see the monument, was that it was open so we could climb the spiral staircase to the top if we wanted.

Amanda took about six steps up, decided that it was just too windy and steep for her (she apparently inherited my former fear of heights) so instead opted to safely wait for Jamie and I on a bench. There is a time when I would have been sitting right there with her but now I've simply got to do things I wouldn't have before as otherwise I might miss out on a good photo op!

Jamie and I successfully negotiated the increasingly narrower and narrower-as-it-got closer-to-the-top staircase until we finally arrived at the small room at the top of the tower with its windows looking out in all directions. Some of them were still pretty covered with condensation as it was still fairly early in the day but I was able to get a few decent photos taken before we started our way back down.

Amanda was right where we left here when we made our way up and once we got our feet firmly back on the ground we resumed our journey to Bennington which is not far from Mount Greylock at all. I'll be writing more about Mount Greylock over on The Distracted Wanderer once I get my proverbial act together and find some extra time too!

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After getting Amanda settled at Bennington College with Darci, Jamie and I drove through some very pretty New York farmland for about an hour and a half before arriving in Lake George around 4:30 in the afternoon with plenty of time to check into our budget motel (more about that on my other blog at some point) and buy a couple of tickets for the upcoming fireworks cruise on the lake before killing some time walking around and taking photos of the area.

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As the Adirondack Balloon Festival was taking place just down the road in Glens Falls (something that I decided to completely avoid after witnessing the line of cars trying to get into it off of the interstate)  a couple of balloons came up to do what they call a "moonglow" in Battlefield Park next to the lake before the fireworks went off.  I managed to get a quick picture from across the street before we boarded the Mohican, a moving National Historic Landmark that has been plying the waters of Lake George since December of 1907.

Not only did we get to see some beautiful fireworks over the lake from a terrific vantage point but just before the fireworks started, Jamie and I saw a meteor streak through the sky - though we didn't know it was a meteor at the time and only found out later when I was watching the 11:00 news back at our hotel. According to the newscaster, it's one of those "you're lucky if you see one once in your lifetime" kind of things so I guess we were quite lucky indeed!

Jamie wasn't quite so lucky the next morning when she awoke early with an earache. Thinking that maybe it was sinus-related, I made a trip to the closest Rite-Aid and bought Advil and Sudafed and a few other over-the-counter things and then as I drove up to Fort Ticonderoga, about 40 miles north of where we were staying, Jamie laid down in the back seat and napped until we got to our destination. I took Route 9N along the lake rather than heading up the interstate like my TomTom initially wanted me to as I thought it would be nice to see some scenery along the way even though it was an overcast day.

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Jamie snoozed peacefully right up until I pulled into the parking area at the fort and then she was a good trooper as we had lunch and then walked around the grounds learning the history of the fort and the troops that defended it. As you can see by the flag and my hair in the photos below, it was a bit windy there on Lake Champlain but even though there were plenty of dark clouds, the rain held off until just as we climbed into the car to make the drive back to Lake George.  I was most thankful as I had been wanting to go to the fort for years and rain would have been most annoying!

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Jamie climbed into the backseat and resumed her previous position for the drive up to the fort and slept the whole way back to the motel. She said she was feeling a bit better before going to sleep but the next morning she said that her ear was really bothering her again so I sent Amanda a text and told her that I'd be picking her up earlier than planned as I wanted to get Jamie home at that point. On the way back to Bennington I simply had to stop briefly to take the photo below:

Makes me wish that I lived up in that area simply as that would be one very cool triple-feature to see, especially at a drive-in movie theater! Unfortunately it's a bit far to go even if one of the movies does star John Cusack and it would be kinda interesting to see Abe Lincoln slaying vampires!

After picking Amanda up at Bennington College and saying good-bye to Darci, we continued on home though this time our route of travel took us down some back Vermont highways where the foliage was looking pretty good in some places. If I hadn't had a sick kid in the backseat, I probably would have been stopping way too often to take photos but instead I merely pulled over for the two below.  It looks we are most definitely having an early foliage season this year but that doesn't surprise me as everything seems to have been about a month early this year. It's been weird to say the least!

The rest of Sunday passed peacefully enough but when Jamie's ear seemed to be even worse on Monday, I took her to see a doctor who diagnosed her with both an inner and outer ear infection. Having been on an antibiotic plus ear drops along with a pretty powerful pain reliever since then, Jamie is finally starting to feel a bit better and hopefully the worse is now behind her.  Even though the timing could have been better as far as not having happened while we were out of town, I'm just glad that she didn't get the ear infection while she was still up in Canada as I'm not sure how she would have gotten it treated. Thank the good Lord for granted favors!